Sunday, October 27, 2013

Speaking of Favorite Places...

I had the opportunity to go "back home" to North Carolina for a few days and spend some time in one of my favorite little towns, Blowing Rock. It has been one of my favorites since I was a little girl. There's really no place like it. 

I would love to describe for you just how special it is, but...I would not do it justice. I took a few photographs (OK, more than a few), and I thought I'd share some with you. 

I realize you can't hear the sounds of the leaves crunching under my feet or taste the sweetness of the fresh-picked Honey Crisp apples I enjoyed on the side of the road or smell the wonderful aroma of wood burning in the fireplace, but I wanted to share what I could.

If you're ever in North Carolina during "peak season" when the leaves are changing, it's worth it to make the drive to Blowing Rock and take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There's an entrance to it located right off Main Street. 

There's a reason October is my favorite month, and autumn is my favorite season. 

And every one of those reasons can be found in Blowing Rock. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Following Twain's Advice

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

~ Mark Twain

I love Mark Twain. I think I always have. There is something about his spirit, his line of reasoning, and his ability to things like they were (and still are!) that makes me admire the kind of man he was. I've not only read his books, I have also read and researched his life. He really wasn't the kind of guy that Poppa would want a girl to bring home. As it is with many writers, he wasn't good with money, was known to enjoy a good drink and a smoke, and he could be quite...disagreeable...when he got the urge. 

Of all the quotes I love, from many different people, and of all Twain's words I enjoy, the quote I listed above is one of my favorite. When in doubt about what I should do sometimes, I think of these words. I ask myself, "Will my regret be that I did it...or that, when given a chance, I didn't do it?" It brings a great deal of clarity to a situation pretty quickly, to be quite honest.

One time I remember, in particular, was when I was crossing the English Channel this summer. I was actually walking on a path that appears, when the tide goes out, between St. Michael's Mount and the shore. The path has been there for over a thousand years.

As I was walking along the path, I had the urge to take off my shoes, roll up my jeans, and walk back to the shore barefooted. I wanted to take my time, have a seat on the edge of the path, take a few photographs,...pause in the moment and just breathe and be. So, I did.

Now, I realize it's a simple example of what I'm talking about, but you understand the spirit of it all, right? 

There have been many moments when I have found myself on the precipice of something wonderful. Common sense said no, but my heart and my spirit said yes - so I said yes. Not every chance or every risk I've taken has turned out the way I would have liked or wanted, but I don't ever regret the choice I made to experience that moment. 

Life is short,'s long, too. We are the only ones who must truly live with our choices. Only we know what prompted us do what we did at the time. Who are other people to judge?

Besides, I would rather live half a life boldly than a whole life concerned about what other people think.

I know Mark Twain would agree...

Saturday, October 19, 2013


While attending a meeting in Texas, I met someone who was born and raised right outside of Paris, France. I was amazed to learn that French was her first language because she spoke English very well. It was only after she told me she was a high school French teacher that the topic came up of where she was born and her first language.

I told her I had been to Paris. With some hesitation, almost like she dreaded asking, she inquired about my visit to Paris. I assured her it was a perfect trip, and I loved the city and the people there! She wanted to know the things I did. I mentioned a few things, but then just laughed and said, "To be honest, I really did love everything. Everything! My friend and I decided the only goal for our trip was to eat a crepe every day while we looked at the Eiffel Tower, so everything else we did beyond that was icing." She laughed and said she liked that. She also explained that she never knows what reaction she will get from someone when she says she is from Paris, people tend to either have a good reaction or a bad one - seldom anything in between.

We talked for a good while, discussing many different things, but before we parted she asked me a question that was very difficult to answer. She wanted to know, of the places I've been, which one was my favorite. I gave it some thought before I answered, stumbling over my words a few times. I mentioned a few of the places I love, but...I finally gave up and gave my honest answer. I told her all the places I have been are my favorite. She laughed a bit when I said this and asked again, "All of them?!"

Yes, all of them.

I told her that I love the delightful city of Paris just as much as I love England's beautiful countryside. And I am just as fascinated by England's lovely, dramatic, and haunting coastline as I am the healing waters of Italy's Lago Maggiore,...but there's no way to say which one is "better"! I explained that I love walking on the white, sandy, beaches and swimming in the clear waters of Mexico just as much as I love Blowing Rock, North Carolina on a clear, crisp October day when the leaves are in full autumn bloom...and, my goodness, I'll never forget watching the sun come up over the Grand Canyon and, yet, I am just as amazed to sit down in a huge field of beautiful blue bonnets in the Texas Hill Country in the spring! And don't even get me started on how much I love San Francisco and Chicago...

How could I possibly choose a favorite when there is so much beauty and wonder in the world? I've never had a bad experience in my travels. Have there been "hiccups" along the way? Perhaps travel plans didn't always run smoothly? Well, of course, but never enough to daunt my spirit...or my appreciation for just being there - being somewhere - having an adventure!

In all my traveling, I've never met an unfriendly person or someone who was rude because of the way I spoke or the way I looked in an unfamiliar place. Generally speaking, every place I have been I find people who are warm and welcoming. It doesn't matter what the culture or the language is, when I greet the rest of the world with an open heart and an open mind, I have found it gives the same back.

Now,...with a big, wide, wonderful world like that - who could pick a favorite?! :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Coffee by Candlelight

In all of my blogging, have I ever mentioned how much I love coffee? Oh, goodness, I'd say it deserves the title  'Nectar of the Gods' - right along with a good bottle of wine! A good hot cup of coffee is essential to starting my morning off right and helping me through an afternoon.

Contrary to what most people think, I do not drink "a ton" of coffee, but I do enjoy every single drop of coffee I drink. I usually have two cups in the morning and two in the afternoon. By two cups, I mean two tea cup sizes - not jumbo size. And, for me, drinking coffee is as much about aesthetics as it is flavor. Coffee isn't something to gulp down and run out the door.

For instance, right now, I'm sitting in my favorite reading chair enjoying a delicious cup of coffee. All the lights in the house are out, and it's completely quiet. I love the cool darkness of the early morning night. I'm not ready for the shock of lamps and overhead lights yet. I choose, instead, to be welcomed into the day by the warm glow of candlelight.

I have several small tea light votives sprinkled around my library - their small flames remind me of watching fireflies in my backyard when I was little. It's all very peaceful,...almost magical. And when I combine the comfort of being curled up in my reading chair with the joy of sitting among my favorite books, illuminated by the glow of the fireflies, is it any wonder my coffee tastes better?

The scene I have set is a perfect way to start my day. I've been enjoying it for the past hour (or more...). I know the sun will soon be up and peeking through the front window. I'm going to hang on to the last few moments I have here before the clock reminds me it's time to get ready for work.

The only thing out of place, right now, the glow of this laptop. I'll shut it down now, I just wanted to take a moment out of my magic to share it with you.

Good morning...

Monday, October 14, 2013

"They should tell you when you're born: 
have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel."

~ Gabrielle Zevin

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Another Year Older

Yes, that's right,...I had a birthday this past week. I'm not one of those people who dreads my birthday, but I'm also not one who really makes a big deal about it. It's another year, and I know each year is what I make it. What does continue to amaze me is how quickly the time goes by the older I get, and...I wish it would slow down.

You see, I realize that if the next forty-eight years of my life go by as quickly as the first ones have, there's a good chance I won't be around for much longer. I also realize that, aside from biology, I am only a mixture of my experiences. The things I think and feel will all pass away when I do. The things I worry about now, and sometimes lose sleep over, won't matter anymore. I won't matter anymore.

It's something to think about. I don't mean it in a depressing, sad way. I just mean it in an honest way, as a way of keeping myself in check as I go through life.

I suppose that is why I treasure every moment and soak up my surroundings. It's why I love to travel and experience things and always want to linger in a moment longer than most people. I am always aware that, even if you try to recreate it, you can never experience the same moment twice. Once it has gone, it's gone. Forever.

Knowing I'll never experience the same moment twice is also why I love the way I love. If I truly love you, you know it. If I don't, well, know that, too,...and not because I would ever intentionally be mean to someone. It isn't in the things I say, it's in the things I don't say. The people who know me best know this about me. I don't say things I don't mean, don't give cards that declare things I don't really feel, and don't tell you I love you (or like you) if I don't. Life is too short for shallow words and lukewarm sentiments, don't you think?

So, here I am - another year older. The thing is,...I'm not sure I'm any wiser. I still tend to make the same mistakes, even when I'm aware enough to know it's a mistake before I do it. I still say more than I should (a problem I've had my entire life), and the one who is bothered most by all that I me. I love too openly and with my whole heart, which only makes it easier for others to hurt me.

I've given that last one some thought, though, and decided I wouldn't change that part of me, even if I could. If I hardened my heart to protect it, I would be the one burdened with the weight of it inside of me...and that would never do.


Maybe,...I've gained more wisdom in the last year than I thought...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Cure for What Ails Me

I've been a bit "under the weather" the past couple of days, and it doesn't suit me at all. I've always said I'm far too busy to get sick. I have too much to do. Truth be told, I've always been very blessed with good health. I very seldom ever get sick, I don't have allergies, and I don't have migraines. Like I said, I know I'm blessed.

I was supposed to go to work today. It's the end of the six week grading period, and I sure could use some extra time in my classroom over the weekend. I was determined to go, no matter how I felt...but something held me back. I just didn't feel quite right and, sometimes, I really do listen to what my body is trying to tell me - especially when I feel like it's threatening me that if I don't slow down a little now, it will make me slow down much more later!

After taking a shower and actually getting dressed to go to work, I had a change of heart and gave in to my instincts. In hopes of a quick recovery, I decided to prescribe myself a day off from everything. I took off my 'work in my classroom clothes' and changed into a fresh set of my favorite pajamas (purple ones with Snoopy on them) and decided I wouldn't leave the house except to enjoy my patio and the nice autumn weather.

It turns out I made a good choice.

I spent most of the day curled up in my favorite reading chair and read a good book. I found myself smiling and nodding as I read. Some of the passages were delicious enough that I read them aloud. I lost myself inside another world and found that it took my mind off my body's aches and pains. My body rested while my mind constructed its own movie in my head.

I sat out on my patio for a bit with my blanket and drank coffee. Later, I enjoyed some hot tea from my favorite tea cup, which made me smile to look at it. My sister-in-law gave it to me years ago. It is delicate and precious to me. It makes me feel special when I hold it, and it makes me think of good times I've spent with my brother and sister-in-law.

For lunch, I enjoyed an old, familiar food I seldom ever allow myself anymore - macaroni and cheese - which reminds me of my baby girl (the one who's in the Navy now). It's one of her favorites. I could hear her in my head,"Mom, can we get the GOOD kind? You know, the one with the REAL Velveeta cheese and not the powder kind." She's right, it IS the good kind! The mac and cheese was warm and comforting, reminding me of two childhoods - my daughter's and my own.

All in all, it was a wonderful day...even though I wasn't feeling my best. Taking time for myself and letting the world pass me by for one day was exactly what I needed. Even now, I sit in my favorite reading chair looking out the window while the rain comes down. I still don't feel quite like myself, but I feel better than I did this morning.

Hot beverages, warm memories, and a good book make a perfect combination and provide a pleasant cure for what ails me.

(And, now, it's time to take another dose...)